Horse trailer maintenance will take you a long way

A few quick checks can protect your equine partners and keep you safe on the road.

Spend some time on horse trailer maintenance before hitting the road this season. A little preventative maintenance will take you a long way toward staying safe. Photo credit: Karen Waite | MSU Extension

Spend some time on horse trailer maintenance before hitting the road this season. A little preventative maintenance will take you a long way toward staying safe. Photo credit: Karen Waite | MSU Extension

Before you hit the road with horses this season, spending some time on horse trailer maintenance will take you a long way toward staying safe. Michigan State University Extension suggests starting by checking tires and spare tires, lug nuts and bearings, lights and turn signals, floors and brakes.

Tires - Regularly check your tires and spare tires to make certain they have the appropriate tire pressure. The pounds per square inch (psi) is located on the side of the tire. Tires filled to their maximum rating will stay cool, and are less apt to flex and blowout when hot. Also check your tires (and spare tires) for wear spots, and have them regularly rotated to extend the life of the tire. Remember tires are subject to drying out even when the trailer is stationary for long periods of time.

Lug nuts and bearings - There are few things scarier to someone hauling horses than a flat tire or loose wheel, at 70 m.p.h. Making sure that your wheel bearings are greased and lug nuts are properly adjusted are often best done by a mechanic, unless you have the tools and skills necessary to do so. Either way, they should be evaluated annually and attended to as required.

Lights and turn signals - Always make certain that your turn signals, brake lights and running lights work with the vehicle you are using to tow the trailer. This will require a second person watching the vehicle as you test each, especially for the brake lights. If they are not working check the fuses, bulbs and plug connectors first.

Floors - Some of the most devastating yet preventable horse trailering accidents occur as a result of weak, rotting or corroded trailer floors. Always inspect your aluminum floors for signs of corrosion, or wood floors for crumbling, which indicates dry rot. You should also examine the beams underneath the trailer, which support the floor, and make certain they are in good condition as well. Cleaning the floors of manure and urine after every trip increase the longevity of the floors.

Brakes - Test your brake adjustment before loading horses, by driving a short distance and braking. Ideally, the tow vehicle and trailer will brake as one unit, as opposed to the trailer skidding or jerking. If this occurs, adjust the controller until the desired effect is achieved.

Other details - If you don’t use your trailer frequently, you will want to check it for unwanted “guests” such as bees and wasps, and their nests, in tack compartments, near the ceiling and other areas that you may not regularly look. You should also inspect all latches, bolts and safety chains or devices designed to ensure that the trailer and tow vehicle remain connected during travel. If your trailer has been parked for awhile, give yourself plenty of time to repair any problems – don’t wait until the morning of your trip to realize you need to buy a new tire or light for your trailer.

These tips will get you started in the spring, but proper trailer maintenance is a year around activity that can enhance the safety of your animals and other drivers on the road, and that can extend the life of your trailer. 

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